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Snowmelt infiltration: monitoring temporal and spatial variability using time-lapse geophysics.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date1/09/2004
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Journal number1-4
Volume297
Number of pages13
Pages174-186
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

More than 50% of the groundwater recharge in Norway takes place during snowmelt. Given the possible threat to groundwater quality caused by potentially rapid transport through the unsaturated zone, it is important to understand the infiltration processes that take place during snowmelt, and the factors that control the temporal and spatial variability of such processes. Here, we report on the results of an experimental study of infiltration during the snowmelt period of 2001. The study was carried out at a well-characterised field plot, close to Oslo Airport. In order to examine the spatial and temporal variability of snowmelt infiltration, a series of electrical resistivity surveys were carried out using electrodes installed below the ground surface and in shallow boreholes. The results from this time-lapse survey reveal significant changes over time, and suggest that localised infiltration takes place. The patterns of inferred increases in saturation are consistent with observed reductions in snow cover and appear to be principally controlled by variations in microtopography. Resistivity changes observed at depth, using the borehole-based electrodes, show rapid percolation through the unsaturated profile. Such behaviour is consistent with observed rapid changes in local groundwater levels. The results confirm the potential threat to groundwater quality during snowmelt and illustrate the spatial scale of processes that require adequate attention in groundwater management in vulnerable areas.